There are lots of options for work, training or further study when you leave school. You might not know what career you want. You might feel more confident about getting a job than doing exams or academic study. Or you might want to learn more about a subject you’ve studied at school.
You might feel pressure from school or parents to make a certain choice. But it’s up to you to decide what you want to do. Take your time and research the options before you make a decision.
Your school or college should have a careers adviser. They can help you:
understand your options
find support to apply for study, work or training
organise work experience so you can try out different careers
In England, you must stay in education or training until you are 18. If you are leaving school or college, you’re guaranteed a place on a further education course the following autumn if you’re under 18.
This could be:
an apprenticeship or traineeship
part-time study while working
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can leave school when you are 16.
If your school does not offer sixth form, you can complete your studies at a local college. Look for colleges near you and search for courses on their website. You can study for A levels or choose another qualification.
If you’re interested in a vocational course but you’re not sure what to study, find out what is available in your area.
When you find a course you’re interested in, click on the ‘course enquiry’ link on the college website. This should tell you:
more about what skills you will learn
how you will study
when the course starts
If you cannot find something that suits you, call the college and tell them what you are interested in.
Some colleges can be flexible about entry requirements so always ask! Speak to the tutors for the course you want to join.
You will go through a process similar to applying for a job. You may have to:
complete an application form
send a personal statement
take part in an interview
Your school or college careers adviser can help you to apply.
Apprenticeships can be at intermediate, advanced, higher and degree levels. The level you study at depends on what qualifications you have gained at school or college.
For example, if you have completed your GSCEs, you can apply for an advanced apprenticeship equivalent to 2 A level passes. If you have completed A levels, you can study for a higher or degree qualification.
A traineeship is a course with work experience for people aged 16 to 24. Courses help build your skills and confidence for work.
Traineeships last from 8 weeks to 6 months. You can get help with English and maths if you need it. You will not be paid but you might get expenses, such as travel. A traineeship can help you get ready for work or an apprenticeship.
Setting up your own business can be exciting and rewarding. But you will be responsible for paying your own wages. There can be many costs involved in starting up, such as the cost of premises, stock, equipment and insurance. You will need:
drive and determination
funds to cover your startup costs and living costs before you make a profit
skills to manage and promote your business
You can get free advice and training to help you get started.
If you’re not sure where you want to go next, you could take a gap year between school and further study or work. You could use the time to:
get a part-time job and build up your savings
get unpaid work experience to build your confidence for work
volunteer to gain new skills
try out self-directed study, such as free online courses
Some young people feel anxious or lost if they are not working or studying. Set out a plan for what you want to do and what you want to learn. It will be easier to find a job if you can show what you’ve learnt during your time off. If you try something and decide it’s not for you, you can change your plan.
If you decide to go into further study, spend some time researching what is on offer. Check when you need to apply. Most courses will have 1 application deadline per year.
Universities offer a huge range of courses and qualifications. Most students start with an undergraduate degree.
Some people choose to do a foundation year. This is a way into university if you’re not ready to study for a degree yet. You may not need to have A levels to apply for a Foundation year, depending on which course you choose.
Many young people go to university to learn more about a subject before they decide what career to go into. Others go to gain a specialist degree, such as medicine, architecture or town planning.
University courses can be full-time or part-time. If you are not ready to start straight after leaving school, you can apply for a deferred place. This means that you can take a year out before you start your course.
Your school or college will help you to apply for a university place.